Monday Medical: It's not too late for a flu shot

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Many people think that if they haven't had an influenza vaccine by the holidays, it is too late. However, there still is time for you to take this important step to protect your health.

In most years, the influenza season does not peak in the United States until February. It typically lasts until April. Since protection from the vaccine occurs two weeks after getting it, people still can get the vaccine throughout early spring.

Influenza is commonly called the "flu." However, this term sometimes is used incorrectly to describe illnesses that are not really caused by influenza. So how do you know what you've got when you're feeling sick?

Influenza infects the nose, throat, windpipe and lungs (respiratory tract), but not the intestines (gastrointestinal tract). Other viruses also can infect the respiratory tract. The best way to tell if you have influenza is for the doctor to swab your throat and have a laboratory confirm the diagnosis.

People who have influenza spread it to others by coughing, sneezing and talking. Although some people may have mild cold-like symptoms, others with influenza will suffer from high fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing. The severity and quick onset causes people to remember the exact hour that the illness started.

Four of five people in the U.S. are recommended to get the influenza vaccine, including: people with asthma; people with chronic diseases of the lungs, heart or kidneys; people older than 50; pregnant women; children between 6 months and 18 years of age; health care workers; caregivers; and family members of people at high risk of complications from influenza.

Children and teens, age 18 years and younger, should get vaccinated. This is because school-aged children tend to spread the disease widely throughout the community, particularly to high-risk adults, such as elderly grandparents. Immunized children are protected directly and do not spread the flu to other family and community members.

Some people incorrectly think that they can get influenza from the vaccine. The influenza shot contains only proteins from the influenza virus, so the virus cannot reproduce itself and cause respiratory illness.

Although the nasal version contains live influenza virus, the virus has been weakened so that it cannot grow in the lungs. Therefore, the nasal spray vaccine cannot cause influenza illness either.

The shot can cause a sore arm and redness or tenderness at the site of the injection; it also may cause muscle aches or low-grade fever. The nasal version can cause mild congestion and runny nose.

These are very minor inconveniences compared to the serious health threat of influenza. Each year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and about 36,000 die from complications due to influenza. Some were at high risk, but others were previously healthy. Many were older, but some were children.

Most could have been protected by being immunized. Talk to your health care provider or contact the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association at 879-1632 about getting immunized against the flu. It's still not too late.

Janice Poirot, RN, is a public health nurse at Northwest Colorado VNA.

Comments

freerider 5 years, 3 months ago

Hey Janice ...how about giving us a list of the crap they put in a flu shot....things like glycol and mercury...and how about all the people that die from getting the shot in the first place...so do you support the guardasil vaccination as well.?? the one that is killing young girls and or parlyising them..?? I heard a report last week on youtube from a lab that makes flu shots ...the lab technition was quoted as saying the shots don't make any differnce at all and that she would never get one...go figure...hard to believe anybody these days as no one has any credibilty

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